Woodstock for your brain

Technology. Entertainment. Design.  = TED.

Ideas worth spreading = Spirit of TED.

TED conference is where the brightest minds came together to share their ideas.  I’ve heard of the event last year for the first time, and have been wanting to attend ever since.

And I finally got to do it this past week at TEDxUSC, an independently organized event hosted by USC.

In a small world, Amy G told me about her friend who were going to TED who turned out to know @FStop23.  As a matter of fact, dude was the one who told @Fstop23 about the conference, who then reminded me to apply for the invitation. I, then, in turn, told my friend Janetta about it.  The next thing we knew, our little posse worked out a great deal.  @Fstop23’s gang, having a more flexible schedule than the rest of us, secured our seats in Bovard Auditorium.  (5th row from the stage, better than my CEO’s seat, no less.  Not too shabby there, gang!)  I showed up with lunch for one of the gang and snacks in hand.

We’re talking innovation here, so I baked Pim’s The Morning After Banana Bread in muffin form. Ah, the glorious blend of bananas, espresso, and Jameson!  Not only I got to feed my little crew, I offered some to the people sitting nearby and some random students as well.

See? Ideas AND muffins worth sharing!

Anyways. TEDxUSC’s format was mostly live speakers with a few videos of  TED presentations, USC student films, and musical performances.

My mind was blown.

So much energy in the place. And so positive!  Bovard auditorium has never felt so large AND small all at the same time.  I mean, there’s so much more out there to know and to discover that you feel so tiny, but yet all the spirit of discoveries and innovation makes you feel larger in life, like you too can do ANYTHING.

Like Woodstock for the brainiacs.

Peace. And free ideas. Rock on, man.

I’m not going to recap everything from the event because they’ll post all of that up on TED website soon.  However, these are the ones that made an impact on me.

Daniel Seddiqui : “50 jobs in 50 states” in 50 weeks: “You make your own destiny,” he said.  Word.

Then we were in space with Dr. Nicholas Patrick, NASA astronaut. How your perception of everything changed when you’re in space. Like the value of letting go and holding on. One of the most intriguing things he said: You can see the [environmental] policies from space.  How the policies are affecting the earth.  We can’t see it down here but they can see it from up there.

And while in space, we explored a little further with Paul Frommer, the creator of the Na’vi language for Avatar. Instead of discussing the language, he instead introduced us to how to use Na’vi in romantic situations. Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

Na'vi pick up line for beginners #avatar #tedxusc

The video of Temple Grandin’s presentation at earlier TED conference was very fascinating.  “She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids,” says the description.  Ms. Grandin herself said that the world needs all kinds of minds.   And the mentors are essentials in bringing in more great minds.  Funny how in WIRED magazine a few months ago, Thokil Sonne advocates for the same thing for the 12 shocking ideas that could change the world.

Michael Yap, CEO at the Media Development Authority of Singapore, talked about new media in sharing experience. The whole putting another billion people online is one thing.  But then he showed a video of a “Food Lab” which has sensors in your ladle and in your pot, which transmits to the other pot and ladle so you can learn to cook, knowing exactly how much force you need to stir a pot at what temperature.  I’m not alone in thinking that it was a little creepy of a way to learn to cook.

Food should be something personal.  Look at all the processed foods out of the factories, they’re nothing like a home cooked or even restaurant meal.  Human element is needed to make food good.  Oh yeah, I’m off on a foodie tangent there for a bit.  But see? Wouldn’t have stopped to think about how I or we learn to cook and what food really means until Michael showed us that.

Then there’s a sit-down chat wiht Jeb Corliss, the Human Bird.  Dude puts on a flying squirrel suit and jumps off planes.  He said it’s not because he has no fear but that he harnesses the power of his fear into training and meticulous planning of every tiny little steps to ensure that everything goes right. If you do that enough, you have nothing to fear.  While I can understand what he’s saying, I still think dude’s fucking nuts. And awesome.

And of course, Al Seckel.  At this point, we’ve been in the auditorium for 4 hours now. And then Al came in and fucked with all of our brains with his sensory and visual illusions.  It started with all these crazy visual stuff then it was also audio.  You know, Stairways to Heaven going backward on its own was mumbo jumbo but when you look at the “hidden lyrics” while you listen, suddenly you hear every word that wasn’t there.  But all of that comes down to how your perception was formed (by the age of 8 thereabouts) and what we think we believe in.  Total trip.

We closed with the behind-the-scene of OK Go’s Rube Goldberg music video with Adam Sadowsky of Syyn Labs himself with a video intro from the band. (Tricked me. For a second I thought OK Go was REALLY behind the curtains!  Boo on you, Adam!)

Like that wasn’t enough. There was an interactive reception afterward with “toys” you can play with like interactive physical therapy game that needs you to move to accomplish the task–a gentler Wii, if you will–and then there’s this laser thing that traces your image and projects it onto a wall (look at Janetta below playing with her laser shadow), and some models showing off wearable arts by Psycho Girlfriend like a dress made out of plastic tubings or pool foam “noodles”.

Janetta and her laser shadow. #tedxusc

Now, at the reception.


Us paid customers to TEDxUSC got red badges and no wrist band.  I’m assuming that they too assumed we were all of age.  Students in attendance were carded and given wristbands if they are over 21.

It is a blessing and a curse of looking like a college student even though I graduated from that very same college 10 years ago.  The bartender wouldn’t serve me. because I had no wristband.  I told him we red badgers didn’t get one so here’s my ID.  He refused to check my ID and brushed me completely aside.

Look, motherfucker, if I was an underage trying to get a drink, would I BEG you to check my ID!?  I PAID to be here at this event and have been in the fucking auditorium for 6 fucking hours. AND YOU WON’T SERVE ME MY MOTHER FUCKING WINE?!?!

Yep. I almost went Woodstock 1999 on his ass.

I found another bartender who listened to my situation, kindly looked at my red badge, and checked my ID.  Wine was served with a smile AND an apology for inconvenience.

The kicker?  I went back to the motherfucker who refused service earlier with my empty plastic cup of red wine and asked for a refill. “Of course, miss.  Here you go.”  Not event asking for that godforsaken wristband he couldn’t live without a half hour ago.  Whatever.


Despite the ID incident, the event was great.  Our little gang had a great time.

I ran into someone I know during the break.  I asked how he was liking the event.  He said that he didn’t understand why the program should be interrupted by music and student films.  And he thought not all speakers were worthy because they weren’t all innovation that are practical.  What’s with that human bird guy or that autistic lady?  A kid with looping electric violin?  Really?  For business executives like him, he said, he felt like he was cheated out of his precious time to spent 2 out of the 6 hours with what he considered nonsense instead of finding out more about cutting edge innovation.

My friend Janetta just looked at him and said, “You’re not at the right conference then.  That’s not what TED is about.”

He just blinked at her.

Down with the Man, man.

1 Comment

  1. Suebob   •  

    I sat next to an extraordinarily smart guy at TEDxConejo. He is a PhD who works at Amgen, developing cancer drugs keyed to certain genetic types. He sat, fascinated, through the whole thing (ours was all day) and stayed afterward to talk.

    THAT’s the kind of businessman I want to work for, not the guy who talked to you. Smart people love learning even random things, because you never know when you will need that bit of knowledge. I think Steve Jobs did a talk about this re: taking typography in college, which is why Apple computers had cool fonts before anyone else did.

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